CONCORD, N.H. — The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will not hear Exxon Mobil’s appeal of a $236 million judgment for its use of a gasoline additive that contaminated groundwater in New Hampshire.
The court’s order leaves in place a jury verdict involving contamination by the chemical MTBE.
Exxon Mobil wanted the judgment thrown out because New Hampshire was not required to prove that individual water supplies were contaminated. The Irving, Texas-based company also said it is not responsible for contamination caused by gasoline spills at junk yards and independent gas stations.
MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether, is a petroleum-based gasoline additive that has been used since the 1970s to reduce smog-causing emissions.
It was found in the 1990s to contaminate drinking water supplies when gasoline is spilled or leaks into surface or groundwater.
New Hampshire sued Exxon Mobil and other oil companies in 2003 for damages to remediate MTBE contamination, saying they knew they were supplying a product that is more difficult to clean up than other contaminants. Other companies settled with the state, though some said that when used as intended, MTBE is safe and effective, and the problem was with leaking gasoline storage tanks.
The 2013 verdict came after a decade of litigation that spanned five attorneys general and four governors in New Hampshire. The trial, lasting nearly four months, was the longest and resulted in the largest jury award in New Hampshire history.
Recently, the Legislature passed, and Gov. Maggie Hassan signed into law, a bill that provides that money from the verdict will be used to fund projects related to cleaning up and protecting drinking water.